Earlier this month, several Fourth of July celebrations were marred by accidental fires. In a town near my home, 10 acres within a densely populated area were set ablaze by illegal fireworks, forcing the evacuation of several apartment buildings. While fireworks may not be an issue year-round, it's important for property owners to take note of fire safety procedures as we're in the thick of the hot weather and wildfire season.
Keeping your tenants and your property safe is perhaps the most important task a property manager or landlord has on their plate, and fire safety should be at the top of the list. Thankfully, you can keep your renters safe and protect your investment this summer with these safety tips:
Create a "Defensible Space"
Brush, overgrowth and debris will all act as kindling in the event of an already dangerous fire. This is particularly true if any of the vegetation around your property is browning or dead.
Create what wildfire prevention experts call a "defensible space" to ensure your property has the most protection possible during the dry season. Ready for Wildfire diagrams show how you can protect your property using the zoning system:
Within 30 feet of any structure, remove all dead vegetation, dry leaves or pine needles from your property's yard or the building's roof and gutters. Keep branches and trees from posing a risk to your property by removing any branches that hang over your roof, and regularly have your trees trimmed to keep all branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
Remember dry or dead plants pose the greatest risk to your property, but don't overlook the risk of flammable living vegetation. Remove vegetation and debris that could catch fire from around and under decks, and be sure to prune or even remove flammable foliage, like shrubs, that are near windows. Finally, create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.
Note: In some counties this 30 feet clearance may be larger. (For instance, San Diego County, Calif., requires 50 feet of clearance from buildings and property structures.) Check your local laws to ensure that you're following your defensible space or weed abatement ordinances for your property.
Within 100 feet of buildings and other structures, cut or mow the grass down to four inches or shorter. Be sure to remove fallen leaves, needles, bark, cones and small branches so they're equal to or less than a depth of three inches. On trees, remove all branches at least six feet from the ground. Be sure to allow extra vertical space between shrubs and trees or the foliage creates a "ladder" for the fire to move from the ground to the brush to the treetops.
Additionally, check your local fire department's advisements for the horizontal spacing of bushes and trees within this zone. Large vegetation spaced too closely can allow the fire to hop easily across your property and to your building.
Fire safety is about more than just maintaining your property. While seasonal wildfires are a potential danger to many buildings, indoor fires are a risk any time of the year. Smoke detectors and fire alarms are required in dwellings, and it's important for property managers and landlords to ensure that they're working properly.
Remember, even if you require tenants to maintain the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarm systems, you should make it a habit to double check that they're working properly every time you inspect your property or perform routine maintenance. Check with your local laws to ensure that you have an appropriate number of smoke alarms throughout your property.
Fire Escape Route
Pre-planning can save lives in the event of a fire. With the prevalence of synthetic materials and polyblends in household furniture and products, fires can spread more rapidly and at a higher heat than in the past. Shaving minutes off of an exit from a building can mean the difference between life and death. This is particularly true if you manage a multifamily property or apartment building. These plans should be reviewed with your tenants, as well as clearly posted in each unit. You may also want to include emergency numbers and contact information on this sheet.
With summer in full swing, there's no better time to double check that your fire safety precautions and emergency plans are fully in place. You never know when a fire safety precaution could be the only thing standing between your property and disaster!
Brentnie Daggett is a writer and infographic master for the rental and property management industry. She loves to share tips and tricks to assist landlords and renters alike. To learn more about Daggett, and to discover more great tips for renters, visit www.rentecdirect.com.